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Omani medic gets WHO award for anti-tobacco drive.

Muscat: In a big boost to the fight against tobacco, a doctor in the Sultanate's Ministry of Health has won the World Health Organisation's (WHO) "World No Tobacco Day Award" for 2011.

Dr Jawad Ahmed Al Lawati, director of Non-Communicable Diseases Department at the Ministry of Health, is among the six award recipients from the Eastern Mediterranean region.

The award becomes significant as May 31 is observed as the World No Tobacco Day.

Every year, WHO recognises individuals or organisations in each of the six WHO regions for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control. This recognition takes the form of the WHO Director-General Special Recognition Awards, World No Tobacco Day Awards, and in 2011, one WHO Director-General's Special Recognition Certificate.

The other recipients are from Iran, Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt,

Sudan.

Speaking to Times of Oman, Lawati said: "I feel honoured to be conferred with this award. It boosts my confidence in continuing the fight against the tobacco epidemic."

For the last 17 years, Lawati and his team have been working to enhance awareness about the health risks of tobacco use.

The doctor is happy with the Sultanate of Oman's efforts in curbing the tobacco epidemic.

"There is a marked improvement in the situation. We are moving slowly but surely moving ahead," he said.

He explained that Oman is party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO.

"We seek to elevate the treaty's importance," he said.

The treaty calls for parties to the convention to abide by rules and Oman has put into practice some of them.

"The smoking ban in public places, which was introduced on April 1, 2010, has been successfully implemented and this has really helped in our fight against tobacco," the doctor said.

He added that the country has been able to undertake comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

"Thanks to the support of the media, we have been able to carry out this rule effectively," he said.

Lawati feels there is a lot more to be done on this front.

"We are looking to increase taxes on tobacco. We believe that tobacco taxes are the most effective way to reduce tobacco use since it will make it less affordable," he said.

The authorities are also looking to implement pictorial health warnings on tobacco packaging.

"We have done the ground work and this will be implemented soon," he said.

"We are working hard to ensure the effective implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control," he added.

"Our concerted efforts towards stricter tobacco control to protect the present and future generations from tobacco-related problems will continue," he said.

The Sultanate will join the rest of the world in observing the World No Tobacco Day today.

It will be held at City Seasons Hotel in Al Khuwair under the WHO's theme The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and under the auspices of Dr Mohammed bin Saif Al Hosni, undersecretary for Health Affairs.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2011

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:May 31, 2011
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